from the Couch to 5k
From the Couch to Running 5km
Running for beginners can be a daunting experience when you embark on that first run. If you are anything like me when I first started there were all sorts of things going through my mind, for instance, “what if I fall over”, “what if I need a wee”, “what if someone I know sees me”, “what if I need to stop”. Certainly, that last thought about needing to stop was something that did come true on that very first run (as have all the others at one point or another) and that is why the best training plan to follow for running beginners is one that incorporates both walking and running to build up the distance and endurance.
This approach will also provide a solid structure to your 5k training that will be good for motivation and not leave you feeling frustrated that you have had to stop at regular intervals. It will also counter the prospect of you trying to do too much too soon and becoming de-motivated and at an increased risk of injury.
This couch to 5k training plan is the perfect starter for your new running career. The training plan is designed to condition your body over an 8-week period to gradually introduce you to the merits of 5k training. The couch to 5k plan can then be the springboard to trying one of our other structured 5k training plans which target a particular time. Maybe one day you’ll be following the sub 20-minute 5k training plan, but for now let’s complete the couch to 5k!
Before you lace-up your fancy footwear, please peruse our couch to 5k running tips.
The couch to 5k training plan is spread over 8-weeks and has adequate rest days to allow your body to recover. On these rest days you could consider a swim or cycle-ride as a means of cross-training. These will give you that nice warm healthy feeling without sapping your legs of energy for the next run.
Remember, running is hard at first, if you are a complete novice then it is going to be difficult, but then things worth doing usually are. There will be times when you will not want to walk/run, there will be times when your head is telling you that are not able to go on. There will be times when it’s raining and cold outside when the last thing in the world that you want to do is go out in ‘it’, but stick with it. Persevere, because each time you do, it’s another step on the road to achieving your goal and the benefits derived from climbing these little steps only serve to make you mentally and physically stronger.
Week 1 – Session #1 Run 2, Walk 2 x8 | Session #2 – Run 2, Walk 2 x8 | Session #3 – Run 2, Walk 2 x10
Week 2 – Session #1 Run 3, Walk 3 x6 | Session #2 – Run 3, Walk 3 x7 | Session #3 – Run 3, Walk 3 x8
Week 3 – Session #1 Run 5, Walk 3 x 3 | Session #2 – Run 5, Walk 3 x 4 | Session #3 – Run 5, Walk 3 x 5
Week 4 – Session #1 Run 6, Walk 3 x 4 | Session #2 – Run 6, Walk 3 x 4 | Session #3 – Run 6, Walk 3 x 4
Week 5 – Session #1 Run 8, Walk 5 x 4 | Session #2 – Run 9, Walk 3 x 3 | Session #3 – Run 10, Walk 5 x 3
Week 6 – Session #1 Run 10, Walk 3, Run 5 x 2 | Session #2 – Run 10, Walk 3 x 2 | Session #3 – Run 10, Walk 3 x 3
Week 7 – Session #1 Run 15, Walk 5, Run 5 | Session #2 – Run 15, Walk 5, Run 10 | Session #3 – Run 15, Walk 5, Run 15
Week 8 – Session #1 Run 20, Walk 5, Run 15 | Session #2 – Run 10, Walk 3, Run 20 | Session #3 – Run 5k Non-Stop
Running Tips for Beginner Runners
Don’t run tomorrow, run today
I personally would never look at a training plan that started with Day 1 = Rest, Day 2… Today is the only day that matters and if you don’t start your training plan today, the chances are you won’t start it tomorrow. If it’s important enough to you, you’ll start it today.
You don’t need expensive sports drinks!
Don’t waste your money buying expensive sugary ‘sports drinks’. Unless you are experienced at exercising with these products and/ or are looking to run super-quick times I would avoid them and stick to water. Water contains all the hydrating properties the body needs. If you need a little more taste, add some sugar-free cordial.
If you are new to running or are not running for long periods you do not need to consider anything other than water and a well-balanced diet to support your new running career. Do not get fooled by the plethora of sports drinks advertised on TV promising to make you run faster for longer. These drinks are often full of sugar, are expensive, and can often lead to digestion problems for runners that haven’t used them before. During the run, provided you were hydrated from the start, your body should cope quite nicely for up to an 45mins without additional fluids.
When you get to the stage where you are looking for marginal gains and are considering hydration and nutrition seriously then you can weigh up the benefits of such drinks. For now, just get out there and enjoy your run without the complication.
Vary your route so you don’t get bored
There can be some comfort in plodding the same beaten track. You don’t have to think about where you are going for a start and if running with a watch it can allow you to easily assess any improvements in the distance you’ve achieved. That said, it is also a good idea to vary your route where possible. These variations can give you the experience of different terrains and gradients. After all, the body is a wonderful thing; it can adapt very quickly and so if you are running 5k on a nice flat road every other day, it’ll learn to be able to cope with that rather quickly but will possibly be left exposed if you then tried running uphill. Variation is the key.
There are many online mapping tools out there that you can use to plot routes and use routes other people have created. My favorite is mapmyrun.com as it’s free, easy to use, and it provides an indication as to the gradient.
Don’t Worry if You Need to Stop
It is okay to stop. When you are first starting out running, or are returning to running after a long-term injury or a baby you may well need to stop. That’s okay, just get your breath back and kick-on again when you can. Remember where you had to stop and try and get past that point the next time you are running that route.
The 10% Rule
This one applies to beginner runners just as much as it does for experienced athletes. You should never increase your distance by more than 10% at a time. Obviously, only a madman would attempt a marathon after only just completing his first 5k but it’s important to remember that 10% isn’t much when it comes to 5k. A 10% increase on 5k would see you running just 500 meters more to 5500 meters (or 5.5k). Take any increase in distance steadily to avoid any unnecessary injuries (aren’t all injuries unnecessary?).
What Goes in, Must Come Out
Try and avoid eating immediately before you go out for your run, try and get your meal/snack in at least 1-2 hours before you go out.
There are two types of fibre: water-soluble which is found mostly in fruits and vegetables and there is the non-soluble kind found mostly in whole grains. It takes about two hours for fibre in your body to leave the stomach and into the intestine so plan your pre-run intake accordingly. Either leave plenty of time for nature to take it’s course or leave the fibre-rich foods until after your run.
I once ate an entire pack of dried apricots before a run, foolishly thinking this was a decent source of carbs for running fuel. I only did it the once.
Instead, have a slice of toast, or a low-fat filled bagel. It will take a little bit of trial and error to find out what works best for you, but take my advice and stay away from the apricots!
Don’t skip the Warm Up
Remember to do some dynamic stretches before you start running or at least ease into your running pace gently. Your body will not thank you for going from cold to flat out at the kick of a heel.stretching-running Studies have shown that dynamic stretches are more effective at reducing muscle stiffness and thus reducing the risk of tears than the static variety. They will also increase your heart rate and body temperature in preparation for the task ahead.
It’s important to note that static stretching still has its time and its place – it’s important for increasing motion and flexibility, but for warming up your body needs dynamic stretches.